As we move further away from the great economic downturn that affected us so deeply during the latter part of the first decade of this century, the future of our City becomes brighter with each passing day. We are fortunate. We have so many visionaries, progressive thinkers, and dreamers who don’t just talk about challenges but offer solutions. We surround ourselves with people who live in that environment, citizens like those I brought together to form SoMa and so many other individuals and organizations that have benefited the rest of us with their philanthropic ways. Their contributions over time have certainly made Elkhart a better place to live, work and play. While we say goodbye to 2014, I look to this year and well into the future of this City and see nothing but progress, growth, and prosperity for Elkhart, Indiana! I’m going to begin my next portion of my remarks to you this evening by talking about the different departments of our City. I’ll begin with the City Controller’s Office. The cash balance of the City’s treasury at the end of 2014 was $106 million, a $1.5 million decrease from 2013 because of additional needed expenditures. All one hundred fifty seven of the City’s funds maintained a positive cash balance at the end of the year. The great news I have for you is that in-spite of the financial challenges we have faced due to circumstances beyond our control, Standard and Poor’s increased our credit rating from an A+ to AAA- noting our strong fund balances and the way we manage your money.
The original civil City budget contemplated receipt of revenues in the amount of $63 million dollars. Property Tax Caps and uncollected taxes caused revenue to be lower than the tax levy approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. Of the $37 million dollar property tax levy for the 2014 civil City budget, just $26 million was collected. The effects of the tax caps continue to rise, but at a slower rate than in previous years. The approved gross budget for 2014 was $54 million. The original budget was increased by $3 million carried forward from 2013 and by $6 million in the form of additional appropriations from other funds for a net-working civil City budget of $63 million. Actual expenditures and encumbrances were $59 million or 94% of the net-working civil City budget. The City realized a reduction in operational costs of $4 million. The City had long term debt in the amount of $9 million aggregated between two revenue bonds on January 1, 2014. Principal and interest in the amount of $769,000 was paid during the year. Outstanding debt on the remaining bonds is $8,900,000. The debt is relative to the Lerner project. This is an extremely low debt for a City our size. By law we are allowed to be in debt by almost $40 million which is 2% of the City’s assessed value. Communications In 2014, our Communications Center processed 101,000 calls. These came for police, fire, medical, and some miscellaneous. In 2014, we handled 7,781 calls from land line phones and 11,000 from cell phones. For many years cell calls have been transferred to the City Communications Center from the County. Cell
phone 9-1-1 calls originating within the City must now come directly to our 911 Center. We recently received permission from the County Commissioners to take over the Lafayette Street cell tower which means a majority of the cell phone calls originating in the City will come directly to our Center. No more county transfer will be necessary, eliminating valuable seconds or minutes. There is more to be done yet. We installed and deployed the Solacom Next Generation 9-1-1 Telephone System. This system provides us with the ability to do 9-1-1 texting along with many other capabilities. We also upgraded our radio system to the MC 5500 Motorola System. All of this puts our Communications Center on the list with the best of them. Fire We have been able to provide our firefighters with the equipment they need to do their job efficiently and effectively. In 2014, we purchased a new fire engine at a cost of $430,000. An additional engine will be purchased this year with no increase in price. A new ambulance chassis will be purchased this year upon which we will install one of our current medic compartments realizing a savings in excess of $40,000. A local firm will get the job. The Fire Department responded to 1,300 fire related calls requiring 4,000 emergency responses. The department had 6,000 ambulance calls requiring 13,000 emergency responses. The combined call volume for both Fire and Emergency Medical Services was 8,000. The total unit responses for 2014 were 16,000.
Police There were 3,000 criminal arrests, 6,000 citations, 329 ordinance violations, 8,000 traffic warnings, and 1,000 parking citations. Many cases are cleared by arrest and some are unfounded or in to many the victim refuses to help. The award winning Night Out Against Crime program was expanded in 2014. In response to public requests and in an attempt to keep our police officers supplied with the latest in technology, we began exploring the use of vest cameras for all of our officers. Like our neighboring communities, we came to the conclusion that equipping our police officers with vests cameras to be in the best interest of our officers and our citizens. They offer clarity to any question. IT The Information Technology Department was kept busy with many important
management systems and servers. We upgraded data connection for the police/fire units. The new connection is fifty times faster and costs 40% less. We upgraded to more accurate GPS systems in police and fire units to allow for more efficient dispatching, and increased officer safety. We implemented two factor authentication in police units to meet standards as mandated by the FBI. We improved generator and battery backup solutions in case of power outage or catastrophes. We implemented a system to automatically transfer evidence videos from police cruisers into a secure server with no human interaction needed. We migrated the first responder vehicles away from the Panasonic Toughbook’s to Dell laptops.
Utility Over 3,200 people attended events and programs presented or hosted by the Elkhart Environmental Center. The ElkhartWood program received the ISA Gold Leaf Beautification Award in 2015 in recognition of its positive impact on the community after its first year. The Wastewater Utility treated and released 5.4 billion gallons of wastewater to the St. Joe River and produced 2,301 dry tons of bio-solids. The Water Utility treated and distributed 2.9 billion gallons of safe, clean drinking water through 346 miles of water mains. Street The work performed by the City Street Department may have more to do with economic development than any other City department. The condition of our streets is the first and last impression one gets when visiting our City. Over this past year we have laid in place 21,000 tons of asphalt. Preventing costly deterioration of our streets means diligent crack sealing as well. We used 1,200 gallons of crack sealing oil. We invested $107,000 in concrete replacing sidewalks that included many ADA sidewalks. In keeping with our goal of sweeping all streets in the City every 14 days, our sweepers picked up over 13,000 cubic yards of street dirt and debris. Our popular curbside leaf removal service removed 49,000 cubic yards of leaves from in front of our homes and used the compost for top soil. Winter! Now that the snow is gone, I think it’s gone. I hate to bring it up. But our aggressive snow and ice control program translates directly into reducing the number of traffic accidents and injuries. And as was recently pointed out to me working in the City
of Elkhart makes it a lot more difficult to use snow fall as a reason for arriving late for work. Needless to say, I am happy to be saying goodbye to the winters of 2013-2014. Tolson 2014 was a banner year for the Tolson Center. From the new carpet in the education room to new lobby furniture, you’ll see the improvements at Tolson as soon as you walk through the door. A new fitness room and fresh paint in the gym. But last year’s improvements were not just cosmetic. Sixty students went on college visits. Partnerships were fostered with over forty organizations, and the 24k education program expanded to include nineteen schools! National New York Central Railroad Museum The National New York Central Railroad Museum has experienced another dynamic year resulting in increased revenue across the board, more activities and greater community participation. During 2014, we greeted 7,000 visitors at the Museum. This Elkhart treasure is a world-wide attraction for railroad buffs and a proud testament dedicated to Elkhart’s railroad heritage. Community and Redevelopment The primary function of Community and Redevelopment is to administer the City of Elkhart’s annual Community Development Block Grant Program. The program is funded 100% by the City’s CDBG entitlement funds. In 2013, the CDBG entitlement award was $713,000 and for this year it will be $746,060. This is a welcome increase; however, there is always more to do than there are dollars available.
Building & Code In 2014, permits for new commercial and industrial construction increased by 60%. While permits for new residential construction were down, permits for Addition and Alteration on residential properties and commercial and industrial structures showed an approximate 20% increase over 2013. Additions and Alterations in Commercial and Industrial Structures also represented an approximate 60% increase. The Lerner Complex Air Supply, Aaron Neville, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Temptations, the Beach Boys, Clint Black and Gavin DeGraw, just to name a few. Who could have predicted that we would see names like those on a Marquee in Elkhart? But that was reality in 2014. The Lerner Complex experienced 50% growth. Exceeding all expectations, 482 events took place in the complex. Revenue increased across the board due in part to greater attendance and more events. Working in unison with our resident partners the Crystal Ballroom and Premier Arts we have formed the perfect trifecta for success. The formula for success is simple - provide a guest experience that equals the space. Buildings & Grounds When you look at the reports as I do it is incredible the work that is done by our employees to keep this City of 51,000 people open for business, recreation, entertainment and relaxation, a place to live, work and play. The Buildings and Grounds Department is a major player in our day to day operation. It is maintaining our parks, our buildings and grounds, event centers, etc. The tasks
they perform on a day to day basis would take so much time to discuss we would be here until tomorrow morning. 2014 was one of the busiest years in the history of Elkhart for our Public Works and Utilities Department. The Engineering Group undertook a record number of projects representing $34 million dollars in construction. The list includes 29,000 feet of water main, 7,000 feet of sanitary sewer, 4,500 feet of storm sewer, 5 lane miles of pavement, 12,000 feet of curb and, 12,000 feet of sidewalk. Cemetery Department The Cemetery Department conducted 313 burials and entombments in 2014. At the same time they took on added responsibilities that included snow removal on City properties not associated with a cemetery. That includes snow clearing on assigned downtown sidewalks and bridges. Park Department The Parks Department’s Comprehensive Five Year Master Plan, covering 2014-2018, was produced with the help of public input. It was a great year for community volunteerism. Nearly 2,500 hours were provided by volunteers. With help like this collaborating with the Building and Grounds crews many other projects and tasks were completed. A new playground surface of artificial turf was installed in one of the playground pods at Walker Park. American Park Bridge’s ADA construction work began. Roosevelt Park lights were placed along the walking path. Riverview Softball Complex upgrades included new scoreboards, replacing units from nearly twenty years ago. The restrooms were refurbished and murals were painted on to the central building. All of these
upgrades contributed to being a successful bidder for the 2016 Class C Fast Pitch National Tournament (a first for the City of Elkhart). Art returned to Parks. Carved limestone pieces from the old Armory and a metal contemporary sculpture titled “Totem” by Chicago artist, Brian Monaghan, were placed in the park. The 35th Annual Rhapsody in Green Festival once again celebrated record attendance. Grants The challenges of obtaining federal funds continued in 2014.
peaking in 2011, a year prior to the sequestration, federal opportunities have decreased by 25%.
The decrease in funding opportunities combined with
increasing rigorous eligibility requirements has put additional limits on viable applications. In 2014, ten applications were submitted and four were funded, four unfunded, and two are pending. Total funding received was $68,204. The Grants Department has become an important community resource for nonprofits seeking technical assistance and in the preparation of grant applications. This service has filled a needed void in Elkhart, as many non-profits do not have the expertise to understand fully the legal requirements and policies associated with grant requests. The Grants Department has also served a role in providing expertise to projects related to the arts, humanities, and historic preservation. The Economic Development Department is interconnected with just about every department in the City. Economic development is truly a team effort with the Redevelopment Commission at the center of the hub. Managing the investment of our Tax Incremental Funds (TIF), the Redevelopment Commission fosters many
great projects that developers have come forward with that often require taxpayer funding or abatements. The Aurora Capital Program continues to help many businesses get the start they need which ultimately benefits the entire community. Those in the program including two new businesses that were granted loans in 2014 are maintaining their payment requirements. The redevelopment of North-pointe Plaza into an attractive front door to our community is still on-going. The Thompson-Thrift development known as Shoppes on Six began its construction phase in 2014. There were a number of attraction and expansion projects that selected Elkhart. Many companies chose to expand without requesting state or local incentives. The capital investment made by companies requesting tax incentives in 2014 total $6 million dollars. The capital investment made by companies not requesting tax incentives brought in another $3.5 million for a total investment of $9.5 million. Brownfield Projects In 2014, the buildings at 511 Division Street were demolished and the site is now ready for redevelopment. Work continued on the 700 West Beardsley project, the blighted Walter Piano Building. It is our expectation that the project will be completed this year. After the work has been completed, the site will be ready for redevelopment. Human Relations In 2014, the Human Relations Department provided information throughout the City in the area of housing and employment. Averaging approximately 121
contacts a month from and to citizens, staff offers assistance to individuals related to fair housing, equal opportunity employment and more. Community Development continues to provide a staff person to assist in furthering fair housing. By working together, both departments meet federal contract requirements and Human Relations continues to maintain its substantial equivalency to the Federal Fair Housing Act. In November, the City was notified by HUD that based on our performance their certification would be extended for a period of five years. Law The expectation for the Law Department is to continue to meet the legal service demands of the City. They provide a wide range of legal services to City officials and departments. These legal services include, providing legal counsel to City officials in numerous areas of the law. They prepare, review, and/or revise contracts, ordinances, resolutions, pleadings, briefs, motions, deeds, easements, memoranda, letters and other documents. They handle certain litigation matters before courts, administrative bodies, and arbitrators. Except for those matters handled by outside legal counsel they prosecute violators of the City’s ordinances and engage in debt collection activities to recover fines, fees, damages and other monies owed to the people of Elkhart. They filed 5,339 ordinance violation cases in Elkhart City Court. Human Resource For the Human Resource Department the daily tasks of maintaining the City of Elkhart’s employee benefits, work comp files, and providing assistance with employment issues and filling open positions within the City organization is extremely important. Fifty-three open positions were filled in 2014. Included
were 13 police officers and 8 firefighters. HR also produces the Citywide posting, tracking and routing of bids received, and provides advertising avenues. Our 2014 retirees represented 391 collective years of service. 2014 proved to be a better year in experience and other underwriting factors resulting in no increase in health insurance costs for 2015. A total of 381 full-time employees completed wellness strategies set by the City to receive a discounted premium in 2015. Aviation Department The Elkhart Municipal Airport ranks among some of our most positive accomplishments. The airport currently has the greatest economic impact ever recorded in the history of the airport, $197 million annually, according to the Aviation Association of Indiana. Surveys from businesses that use the airport say the presence of the airport creates more than 1,500 jobs and over $69 million in payroll. In 2008, the airport had 27 empty hangars, students seeking flight instruction had to go to other airports to find it, T hangars were in need of extensive maintenance, and the main runway was in such poor condition the FAA considered it a safety hazard. Today all the T hangars have been repaired and for the first time in ten years all hangars are rented. A hangar waiting list now exists. We now have three flight instructors busy with student pilots and the main runway was replaced in concrete without any local taxpayer matching funds required. In 2014, phase one of the airport road beautification took place. A detailed marketing study was also completed. The implementation phase of that study has already begun. Last year a 5 year agricultural lease was signed which tripled the annual lease income for farming airport property. Today, more aircraft are based at Elkhart Municipal Airport than at any time in its history. Air
Supremacy Over Elkhart received national recognition as a “model of how a City should conduct an RC Airshow”. The Fall Warbird Fly-In celebrated its 5 th year. 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 50 th anniversary of the beginning for the Vietnam War. There is never a bad time to honor our Veterans but we think that now is a great time. May 16 th and 17th the City of Elkhart will host a Salute to Veterans WWII Reenactment in partnership with the National WWII Reenactment Historical Society. Then the big news we have been waiting to hear for more than ten years, mark your calendar for August 20th and 21st, 2016 for the return of the Elkhart Airshow! Now let’s talk about Annexation. We certainly talked about it last year. A year later we welcomed nine new areas into our City. As one who never wanted annexation, I have become an expert on it. Our State Representatives have said they will no longer allow us to continue to charge those outside the City a fee to connect to the City’s sewer system, they told us to annex them, so we did. The nine becoming a part of the City January 1, 2015 means an additional $2.2 million in tax income for the City. If the City is successful in the court room it will mean a total of $5.5 million in new income. There is always resistance to annexation. After all, why pay for City services when you can benefit from most of them without paying while those in the City pay for them? My attempt to explain that to the State Representatives fell on deaf ears. They said annex them. And I hope that those annexed will soon realize the benefits that only a City can provide; services such as quick immediate and full response by our Fire Department, our Medic Units and our Police force. No doubt one of the best snow and ice removal programs in the Midwest and no additional charge for trash and
recycling. We provide those things of fun, relaxation, cultural exchange and entertainment. There is something of value going on every month especially in our Arts and Entertainment District, doing the things that make us a great place to live work and play. The newly annexed become participants and supporters in all of this. And a property in our City is tax limited at the same level as a similar property outside our City by the caps imposed by State Law. There is always a cost associated with annexation. Additional emergency responses, more streets to plow, repair and pave and more personal attention as calls and e-mails come in. These annexations bring in more than enough to cover the cost. There were companies outside the City that requested our sewer service yet wanted to stay outside of our City. At the same time, there were those inside the City who voiced their concern that providing this service outside of our City without them paying City taxes would indeed cause growth around our City but would add little to the assessed value of our City and make it difficult to sell industrial property inside the City. Annexation before or with connection to the City services resolves that issue. That is where we are today. The connection to our sewer system must go hand-in-hand with annexation. However, future annexation must be done with careful consideration and planning. The cost versus the value to the people of Elkhart will always be a consideration. I will not consider annexing any area without providing or planning to provide services within the states time frame. To move out further from your City limits many factors have to be considered. When it comes to measuring the crime rate in our City even one crime is too many. That’s why I meet often with our crime fighting experts, our own Police Department, and I listen to their thoughts on what we can do and also what we
cannot do. It is easy to editorialize the issue by just saying something must be done, but it’s much more of a challenge to do it and do it effectively. We will continue to give our police officers the state-of-the-art crime fighting equipment and training they need. By already doing so, our officers are now able to spend more time on the streets. There is no magic wand we can wave that will end violent crimes. I have said it before, violent crime statistics will go down only when our hearts start talking to our minds. Society must begin to understand the thoughts and the words of those who march in solidarity, with those who conduct vigils and candlelight ceremonies. We have to see Elkhart as one Elkhart and all people as one people living in peace and harmony and without fear of each other. “It’s about recognizing that whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together, and building our collective future is more important than winning an argument. It is called respect, civility, politeness and courtesy”. And then there is this very simple message to those who are determined to kill. One we learn at a very young age. We have no right to take another’s life. We have no right to determine when human life comes to an end. That right belongs to a much higher authority. Let’s leave it there. Early in 2008 I recognized that house Bill 1001 would significantly reduce our revenue going into our general fund. Having received a 2008 budget from the former administration of $57 million, I recognize the need for an immediate austerity move. Just because dollars had been appropriated, if all were spent, the financial future for Elkhart would be questionable. Nearly $5 million went unspent. And during the next several months we managed to reduce our
operation by another $5 million. We improved our efficiency and therefore improved our effectiveness. We continued in that mode and are still committed to that today. Each and every year we received less and less property tax revenue until it totaled approximately $12.5 million annually. Planning, growth, new ideas and concepts would not allow doing just the same with less we had to do more with less. These were tough times. 20.3% unemployment. One out of every five workers living in our City was unemployed. Elkhart survived. As stated based on money management procedures our City received an A+ credit rating from Standard & Poor's that has since been upgraded to AAA-. We renovated the Lerner Theatre, and added the Crystal Ballroom. Finished the streetscape downtown one year earlier than planned and relit the entire area with LED lighting. We began to rebuild our aging fleet and added new technology to our Police Department and Communications Center. With help from the American Recovery Act over $40 million was spent on new construction in the area putting many back to work and creating a stimulus for the local economy. We found some great partners and low-interest loans helped provide needed funding. Using the best financial means possible after negotiating with the Environmental Protection Agency as best we could we began the long term control plan, a great idea to make our rivers and streams even cleaner than they are, but with an associated cost of $134 million dollars. A mandate to complete in 20 years with no associated funding. As of March 16, 2015 we have spent $22.5 million on combined sewer overflow projects. These are infrastructure costs and don’t include operations, maintenance, monitoring, etc. This has resulted in
lessening sewage overflows entering our rivers by 19 million gallons. We are currently under contract to spend $34 million more on this project. This includes the Wastewater Treatment Plant study, the design for CSO 31 and construction for CSO 6/7, the Wastewater Treatment Plant first phase, and the CSO 17/18 redirection. Once CSO 6/7 is fully completed, 118 overflow events will be prevented and there will be 27.5 million gallons less raw sewage entering our rivers. All of that while keeping the monthly increases to the sewer users to a minimum. These things and more during the toughest economic times that many of us have ever seen. It has always been my goal to keep our debt to a minimum and I do not believe you can borrow your way out of debt. However, no matter how I feel about being in debt, a new State Law requires us to borrow money if we are to extend our legacy TIF to make some of the improvements that make us an attraction to outsiders and a better place for those of us who live here. So we are forced to borrow to extend the TIF as there is much to do in the expanded TIF district and without extension of time that TIF will expire before we can make the improvements. The loan has been approved by the Redevelopment Commission and is now in the hands of the Common Council. As you may remember, the City of Elkhart Redevelopment Commission took steps late last year to adopt the SoMa strategy. The SoMa strategy is now the Downtown Redevelopment Plan, and sets the stage for redevelopment in downtown Elkhart for the next 20 years. 2015 will see some significant improvements and progressive things in our City. We are still working with MACOG to improve trolley service by establishing a Trolley Transfer Center on the North West corner of Third and Franklin. The
center will be constructed with federal dollars and serve the trolley users and this area very well. The parking lot that is currently a very large hole in the ground will be restored at Waterfall and Lexington and that project will include new paving on Lexington, and on Waterfall, new sidewalk curb and gutter, new lighting and an 11 foot sidewalk on the riverside of Waterfall drive. In the same area, the Riverwalk will be extended from where it currently is near High Street at the river level. A new concrete walk meeting ADA requirements will gradually climb up to the street level at Waterfall and Franklin. The landscaping will make a beautiful West Bank along the Elkhart River in that location. If the Common Council approves the Redevelopment Commissions bond there is a list of projects that we feel beneficial to the downtown TIF district and follows the strategy of the SoMa initiative. We plan to continue the streetscape program on Main Street from Jackson North to the bridge. A parking lot will be put in the area for the use of the local businesses and our Island Park. The streetscape will also continue from the mainline railroad tracks to Prairie Street. These projects will create a cohesive look along the entire Gateway Mile reinforcing the boundaries for downtown again as expressed through the Soma strategy. We have extended our downtown TIF from Jackson out North Main to Simonton Street. This allows us to use TIF dollars to make improvements in that area. We have gone in another direction by extending it on out to the corner of Goshen Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. There is a property there along the St. Joseph River that we would like to preserve for the people of Elkhart, a place for more Elkhart people to be able to use the upper St. Joseph River. Rent some dock space, purchase fuel, maybe have lunch or dinner, rent a kayak a paddleboat or a pontoon. Enjoy what this
beautiful Elkhart treasure has to offer. We have an agreement to purchase approved by the Redevelopment Commission but that needs approval of the Common Council. We’re looking at updating improvements to the 25 year old City Plaza, and perhaps create a Railroad Sculpture Garden to recognize our railroad heritage down near the mainline railroad property, building on our strong railroad culture. Infrastructure improvements in the State and Division Street area and the preparation of the Star Tire and Armory property are all important for further economic development. We must make needed repairs to our aging Railroad Museum. Some of those buildings have been there since 1906. These projects will capitalize on the success we have created and continue the progress in redeveloping downtown. There's so much we can do and so much has been done through the work of the Redevelopment Commission, one of the great reasons for extending our downtown TIF as required by State Law. We simply have to do it. The old Elkhart Foundry is gone. The Labour property is now a City park. The old Misco Building, the Armory and the old building housing a former machining company at Division and Waterfall is gone. We continue to remove the blight from this community and open the properties up for redevelopment. We hope to soon be rid of the Schult Building on South Main Street. With a new appropriation approved by the Common Council we will remove over 100 boarded-up properties in our City in 2015. Removing these blighted buildings from our neighborhoods is a good thing. We must be able to take our visitors through any neighborhood not just a few. I am a strong believer in lighting and will ask our Utility to conduct a study on the cost of additional LED lighting for
our neighborhoods. Low-cost good lighting is a deterrent to crime. We will continue to work with the Neighborhood Associations with the hope that more neighborhoods will soon have an association. We have constantly met with developers who have great ideas, expensive ideas. But they tell us some of that expense must come from the taxpayers of the City of Elkhart. These are developments that anybody would be proud of but the question we ask ourselves, what is our investment going to bring in return to the people of Elkhart. We make decisions in our own life about what we do with our own money but in my life it is what I do with your money. We must be sure there is a benefit for you. While Elkhart has led the nation in job recovery the battle is not over. We must always be diligent in our quest to find companies that are interested in relocating here. We must be prepared to compete while at the same time identifying situations where the investment maybe too great when compared with the reward. Diversification has never gone off our radar screen and it must be a part of the process for a long time to come. We will continue to work with the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to not only increase the number of jobs but also to assist our current industries in retaining the jobs we have. We have recently joined with the Regional Cities Initiative, the Michiana Regional Partnership. We recognize we can no longer stand alone. We must get over this competitive attitude with other local communities in the region and work in the best interest of all. MercedesBenz coming to Mishawaka with AM General and the South Shore running an express train tying the region to a great metropolis in less than two hours. That’s
important regionalism. Transportation is so important to commerce and economic development. Can't say it happened in Elkhart but it did happen in the region and we will all benefit. The Regional Cities Initiative is just another tool in this very difficult and competitive work called economic development. Standing alone is standing still. Education is in my opinion a major tool in our crime fighting effort and goes hand-in-hand with building a better future for our community. To that end, I sent representatives to our capital to join in and become a partner with the Presidents My Brother's Keeper program. The program addresses the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensures that all young people can reach their full potential while seeking a commitment from community leaders in order to reach that goal. We have accepted the challenge. We will convene a local action Summit with the keynote speaker coming from the Department of Education. A working group will be formed to look at local policies and programs already in place. Mayor Kaufman, Mayor Thompson and I will be working with many including the Horizon Education Alliance. I have received many calls and many questions and comments regarding the closing of the Elkhart Youth and Community Center formerly the YMCA. I have met with the leadership and I am convinced that to put any more money into that building would be a mistake. It is simply worn out. Built in a time when operational costs were not a primary consideration and one of the few places one could go to for what they provided. Today’s energy costs require buildings of today. I appreciate the feelings of so many who recall attending and enjoying what the building had to offer and recognize it as an Elkhart icon. But it must be
closed. Discussion has not ceased and there is hope that something will once again serve this community in the same fashion and maybe even more. Time will tell. I have been asked what I see the City to be in 5 to 10 years. And I have described many of the things that we plan to do within that time frame. But to the question. Before you look to the future one must first look to our history. We are the descendants of those who toiled and struggled to build a village on the banks of the St. Joseph River. A hardy group of great mechanics. Men and women coming to a new territory. Bringing with them only the meager necessities of life. It was their ingenuity, their innovation and their creativity that was survival 101. With those skills, hard work and a love for their town they converted their village into a City.
These traits, this determination has been passed down from
generation to generation. And we must not overlook the fact that many have found us, fell in love with Elkhart and brought new ideas, new energy to our City. Together we recognize it's our turn. We have accepted the baton. And I have no doubt that we will continue to build this village in a manner that would make the founders proud of us. And while it is a valid question to ask someone in a position of leadership what is their vision for the future it is at the same time a somewhat singular unrealistic question. For I feel the term leader is a misnomer. Perhaps a coordinator or facilitator would be a better term. For a good leader, coordinator or facilitator while having vision and dreams of their own will find the most important thing they do is listening to the vision and dreams of their constituents. That's why I formed organizations like the SoMa group and neighborhood associations, to sense the pulse of the community. What is it the
people want Elkhart to be? And there will be many points of view. And my job utilizing my staff and various experts within our community is triage. Gathering enough information to make an educated decision on what moves forward to the various commissions and boards or the Common Council. How do we get the private sector involved especially when there is a need for financial assistance? It is very interesting working with members of the private sector who do not normally have to go through all the hoops and hurdles that we do in government. The speed of or lack of in government is not easily understood. We have to recognize our limitations under the law. There are financial limitations and the vision and our dreams must never override our dollars. The budget must be balanced. There will be no shortage of ideas and concepts. And among the Administration's own ideas, we must be cognizant of the fact that the majority may not agree. So we must listen and at times we have to agree the idea is flawed, not the best use of taxpayer dollars and is simply not in the best interest of the community. We must manage your money wisely. Without that nothing works. Always consider the return on our investment. But we must invest. We’re not living in a time when business and commercialism uses only its own money. Not being critical that's just the way it is. And for Elkhart to progressively improve over the next 5 to 10 years we will have to change our mindset and invest more than we ever have. That is not an easy thing to do as we are a very conservative minded community. But the community next door will be doing it. There are all kinds of innovative things going on to attract new businesses and new people to a community. All of these things costing those dollars we have taken an oath to protect. Because the people
we deal with don’t like too much said in the early negotiations I can only tell you this. Developers have brought us some fantastic projects that all of us would be proud of and all of them are asking us to financially participate with them. Lots of dollars. And with some, looking at the service they will provide and tax dollars collected over some number of years, the City might get its return. And on some of them it's questionable. Decisions have to be made with careful consideration. There is currently a need for housing at all levels. We have the opportunity to bring in upscale housing, condominiums and great apartment complexes. There are thousands of people coming in here daily to work but live in Granger or one of the bedroom communities surrounding our City. No bigger need in Elkhart currently. We share the Chamber of Commerce’ goal to bring in 500 families but it requires 500 good homes in which to live. There are cities building buildings, new buildings and hoping to bring in a company or other commercial entity to fill it. We find many don't want an old building. A City invests in the new building without a buyer, just hoping to find one. This is the future of economic development. Elkhart must decide to join in and lead the movement or accept the left overs. There will be State imposed limitations on expansion and growth. So if we can't build out we will have to build better. If we can't build wider we will have to build up. We must keep up with Information Technology and broadband coverage and the glass wire must be installed throughout our community for us to be able to compete. That study is ongoing. We will be implementing an email archive system to make public information requests easier to produce. I close by telling you what has always been my promise. That between myself and my 600 working associates regardless of the hurdles thrown in our
way, financial or otherwise, we are committed to serving you the people. That’s something that is not going to change. I believe that Elkhart is on the path of success and it stretches out in all directions. We don’t follow, we lead. If we walk together there is nothing we cannot accomplish. We will not stop dreaming or allow anyone blinding our vision but at the same time recognize that by law we must operate with a balanced budget. Our strength and our future is in our money management. Without that nothing works. Thank you and good evening.